In the murder trial of Claud “Tex” McIver, prosecutors alleged that he killed his wife Diane because he was afraid of losing his beloved ranch.
Now that’s exactly what is happening.
The 84-acre property — along with most of its furnishings, art and decorative items — is expected to hit the auction block on the weekend of Aug. 3 following an agreement between Tex McIver’s lawyers and the executrix of his late wife’s estate. The McIvers each owned 50 percent of the ranch.
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How the proceeds — expected to be more than $1 million — will be split is still unclear.
“We anticipate having a public auction on ranch property and are finalizing the details this week,” said Mary Margaret Oliver, the court-appointed executrix of Diane McIver’s estate. Jurors found her husband guilty of felony murder earlier this year, and the 75-year-old former attorney was sentenced to life in prison.
The sprawling ranch became a central feature of the McIver trial, a symbol of the couple's wealth and interests. It was equipped with a stable full of horses, a pool, a luxurious guest house, a stocked wine cellar and a shooting range.
Oliver said she is still negotiating options “which might include escrow” for proceeds generated by the auction — including any money that might be owed Tex McIver if, in fact, he’s entitled to it.
"He owns one-half of that land, no matter what," Atlanta estate attorney Kasey Libby said. "His half-interest is not affected by the murder because it is not property Diane owned when she died."
But there’s no consensus on whether McIver’s right of survivorship trumps the state’s slayer statute, which prevents convicted killers from inheriting from their victim. Atlanta trusts attorney Robert Aitkens said the McIver case is unprecedented in Georgia.
"It raises the question, 'Does he keep an undivided one-half interest?'" Aitkens said.
Had Diane, 64, died from a cause other than murder, Tex McIver would have been able to reclaim his late's wife portion of the ranch.
His hold on the 80-acre spread was tenuous. Diane McIver’s attorney, Kenneth Rickert, testified about a promissory note, dated March 1, 2005, for a loan from his client to her husband for $755,000 plus interest. That would’ve given her the option of foreclosing on the property, though Rickert said he doubted she would’ve ever done that.
Any money Tex McIver might receive would go towards paying off that loan.
McIver’s attorneys have filed a motion for a new trial and announced their intentions to appeal his conviction.
The auction will be handled by Ahlers and Ogletree, the same firm that oversaw the sale of many of Diane McIver’s personal effects, jewelry and clothing soon after her death in September 2016.